Two years ago, in April of 2019, I launched the first SOS Memo: Doing our "best" won't get it done. This one is the 100th such memo in the series -- and all of them have been aimed at sounding the alarm about doing all that we can to prevent the near-term extinction of our species -- hence, the name S.O.S (saving our species).
Fast-forward two years. Even though more scientists are sounding the alarm, no leaders in any of the world's most powerful governments are properly heeding their warning. Below is a chart from Professor Corey Bradshaw that I shared in SOS Memo #97, a few weeks ago.
As it clearly shows, compared to the combined weight of all humans + our food animals + our pets -- the total weight of all of the wild animals in the world is just a tiny fraction.
12,000 years ago, wild animals comprised over 99% of the weight of all of the world's vertebrates. Now, they are less than 5%.
Just look at that cow in this chart. The weight of the world's cattle that we grow for our food -- exceeds the combined biomass of all other vertebrate animals on Earth -- wild and domesticated alike.
This is an alarming situation that our global leaders ignore. Two years ago, there were no prominent government heads of state who were deadly serious about addressing the world's biodiversity crisis.
There are still none. And the crisis continues to worsen.
Formal Warnings from Scientists are Being Ignored
Many thousands of the world's scientists have been issuing formal warnings about climate change and other ecological disasters for almost thirty years. But they have all been ignored by those in power.
Let's take a look at where we are:
- By now, we all know that formal warnings to elected leaders are never likely to produce the action needed to save us from extinction.
- That's because elected leaders all over the world focus on what is popular with their constituents -- so that they can get elected again.
- There are 195 countries in the world -- and I would bet that at least 190 of the heads of state are woefully uninformed when it comes to just how serious our ecological problems are. And their constituents are even less informed.
So what can we do to solve the biggest problem in the history of humanity -- when the top leaders and the citizens are mostly ignorant regarding the dilemma in which we find ourselves?
This practical engineer has concluded that we must take more of a business approach here and come up with a big picture plan that can be explained to leaders and the general population all over the world. A never-ending and steadily escalating PR campaign, if you will.
We're talking about developing and implementing a global intervention that will give Homo sapiens the best possible chance of surviving well past the end of this century -- and hopefully a few hundred thousand years more.
This SOS Memo is all about a simple idea for making that happen.
But first, a little background. Today, capitalism is the world's scorekeeping system. As such, it drives almost everything we do and, in the process -- ensures that we continuously maximize the consumption of "stuff" -- in a world of finite resources.
As for maximizing the consumption of stuff, there was something nauseous about the global display of greed and arrogance surrounding what we all witnessed in the Suez Canal a few weeks ago. I wrote all about it in this SOS Memo last week.
With one giant container ship wedged side-ways, blocking the movement of 30% of the world's trade -- all we humans could think about was the fact that our beloved capitalistic society might be in trouble.
Truthfully, the entire episode made me sick -- as I was forced to think about the totally irresponsible behavior of our favorite species: Homo sapiens.
So how did we get into the mess that we have today? Our troubles all began in the middle of the 18th century when we humans got too smart for our own good. That's when we learned how to build machines and turn Earth's natural resources into energy that would fuel a luxurious lifestyle that we would have never thought was possible.
And somewhere along the way, we forgot that we were just one of Earth's billions of creatures. Also, we never bothered to learn the rules of the game, in which nature demands that we play in harmony with all the other creatures.
We forgot, or perhaps never understood, the magic of the natural world in which we were merely one small piece --and that the most important bit of knowledge we could possibly ever learn was this:
If we want to live here indefinitely, we must lead our own lives in a manner that actually improves the natural biosphere that gives us life.
But we don't. We don't even try. We treat the entire world as if it were just property that our creator turned entirely over to us -- to do with as we choose.
We humans just don't "get it." Not very many humans among us have paid attention to the remarkable wisdom regarding our prospects for the future -- expressed by Dr. James Lovelock -- the 101 year-old "big picture" scientist who is quoted throughout our book, Outcry.
His bottom line prediction is that we will soon be "toast" if we don't quickly learn to live in such a manner that the entire biosphere actually "improves" because of our presence. His succinct comments regarding the "big picture" of our situation:
"When you see the whole picture, it is really fearsomely bad...I fear that not many of us will survive, at best about a billion -- possibly a lot less than that.
If the Earth improves as a result of our presence, then we will flourish. If it doesn't, then we will die off."
So, how can we start "improving" the Earth?
First, we need a totally new kind of scorekeeping system for everything we do. Capitalism will annihilate us soon -- if we don't quickly replace it with a system that incentivizes all of humanity to treat Mother Nature with the dignity, the reverence and the ultimate respect that she requires.
So how are we doing? In my opinion, our current systems of economics and governance are built primarily on fear and greed -- which will lead us rapidly to the end of the age of humans (the anthropocene
The numbers behind our human-controlled world are staggering. So how do we go about replacing the various systems of economics and governance that currently prevail around the world?
What can be done about our sustainability crisis before it's too late? The rest of this SOS Memo is devoted to an idea:
An Idea that Just Might Work
The United Nations assembles a multi-national team of scientific and economic experts -- that reports directly to the Secretary General. Under the name, Operation Sunrise, that team's mission would be to evaluate all possibilities for how we might return to living in harmony with nature. As the name sunrise implies -- a whole new beginning.
Hopefully, the mission will be sponsored, funded and promoted enthusiastically by the leaders of the world's wealthiest and most powerful nations.
With an uplifting name like Operation Sunrise, a PR campaign like no other will begin explaining to the world on Day One that a multinational team of experts has been assembled by the UN to solve the most terrifying problem in the history of humanity: Reversing the current trends toward extinction and maximizing our chances of surviving and thriving indefinitely as a species.
That team will be charged first with studying the world's entire database of "big picture" scientific research for the past few decades -- in a full-blown effort to quickly answer this question at the top of this slide:
As they address the above question, the team will begin an unprecedented brainstorming process in an effort to determine how to radically transform or replace all eight of the lifestyle elements at the bottom of the above slide.
I envision a team of twenty-five members who would all have equal rank -- and each would have a well-equipped research staff.
Then, of course, there will be one overall group leader -- who would be a well-known and highly respected individual. He or she would oversee the building of the team, would chair the group and would establish the overall agenda in addition to leading the discussions.
"The Perfect Sunrise," one of my own photos circa 2004
As mentioned earlier, the team's ground-breaking work would be constantly heralded all over the world by the best PR talent that money can buy -- making their paradigm-changing work as ubiquitous in the daily news cycle as Covid-19 has been for the past year.
So, who will lead this endeavor?
As the founder of an executive search firm (see banner below) and, after weighing the magnitude of what is at stake with regards to the project mission, I am submitting the name of one possible candidate to lead the all-important Operation Sunrise.
By identifying an actual name of a candidate to lead this unprecedented global endeavor -- it will enable people everywhere to better grasp the idea behind, and the potential for, the entire mission. The name of that solo candidate will be revealed later in this memo.
There will be more than one candidate, of course, but by identifying one well-known individual now -- it may assist you, the UN Secretary General and many world leaders in better understanding the breadth, scope and gravity of the mission at hand.
In addition to the leader, the Operation Sunrise team would include one or more experts (mostly scientists and engineers) in each of dozens of disciplines. This is not intended to be a complete list but just a few ideas to get the thought process rolling:
ecology, economics, agriculture, healthcare, forestry, entomology, oceanography, chemistry, physics, architecture, biology, statistics, plant-based nutrition, zoology, engineering, artificial intelligence, systemic change, marketing and others
The team's overall mission: Develop a totally new, ultra-green, game-plan for all humans -- within twelve months -- a plan that would give us the best possible chance to survive, while doing all that we can to support Mother Nature's many other endeavors.
Questions to be answered by the Sunrise team
- What is the scientific assessment of our situation when it comes our longterm survival?
- What happens to humanity if we continue to rush irresponsibly down the road of business as usual? How much time do we have to get our act together?
- What would a sustainable, Earth-friendly civilization look like in various parts of the world fifty years from now?
- How can every citizen best contribute NOW to our future as a species? How can everyone in the world help in buying the Sunrise team a little more time?
- What will replace capitalism as our global scorekeeping system?
- Is it even possible, and if so, how quickly can we bring all of humanity back to a sustainable relationship with nature?
After submission of their conclusions and recommendations, it would then be up to the team, along with the entire UN organization, and all of the sponsor nations -- to urgently and relentlessly drum up support for the mission all over the world.